Breaking up from School for the summer holidays at 5pm the previous day, many of us hoped not to see the clock tower for another ten weeks. But not for the Chapel Choir!! Some out of bed even earlier than in term time, we congregated at the music school at 0830 the next morning.
After collecting all our robes (even for the tenors and basses) and music, the Choir travelled by coach to London Luton Airport. Flying to Hamburg, we got on another coach and headed to the first rehearsal of many, in a round church in Hamburg. Then to the hostel at Horner Renbahn to get settled, and after having our evening meal, we had free time, which was used for unpacking and exploring the hostel.
With a lot of mumbling of how even the second day of the holidays was as early a wake up as at school, we had breakfast at 7.30 with surprisingly few people turning up later. From the hostel we travelled to Miniatur Wunderland, the largest miniature railway, modelled on Germany, even with aeroplanes taking off and landing from an airport! We travelled to our first concert in Rendsburg, to a full audience and had our evening meal at a pizzeria in the square afterwards.
After making our packed lunches, we went to Hamburg Harbour to go on a boat trip up and down the river. There was even an English-speaking guide to tell us about the tourist attractions! Mr Saunders then showed us a tunnel under the riverbed that we had just been over. In the afternoon, we travelled to Itzehoe, where we had some shopping time before Tuesday’s concert. As we went into the church, there was a man who wanted the Choir’s autographs. We all felt famous, especially in a different country! We sang to a full audience, courtesy of the organisers of the church who advertised the concerts very well. We then had supper in the adjoining church hall in the town, prepared for us by the church ladies.
We took a short tube journey for our third and fourth concerts, both of which were in Hamburg. The first was at St Michaels Hauptkirche, where we went to have a rehearsal, before climbing the church tower. There were lots of steps to the top, an unreliable count of 442 was mentioned, and when we got to the top you could see a spectacular 360° view of the whole of Hamburg. After doing our shortest concert at St Michaels, we went on a route march to St Petri’s, which was ‘just round the corner…’ This seemed to be about five miles away! We were allowed free time for lunch and a bit of shopping before the rehearsal. In the middle of the concert in St Petri’s, we were joined by a howling protestor as she took stage at the head of the nave in the church, facing us in the organ gallery, twenty feet above her. Mr Crompton didn’t seem very shocked that she ‘only hit the same note as us once’ and he also said that ‘she must have thought ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ was being held here!’ After exiting the church and standing on the street outside, a couple of people thought the protestor was coming back again as a scream was heard not too far down the street… thankfully she wasn’t, and we went back to the hostel for the major event of the year – the RHS talent show – followed by supper. All acts participated, from singing with a piano accompaniment to weightlifting and rubik cube races, which had become the craze of the week.
The next day we travelled by coach to a small town called Lüneberg, which had been rebuilt to the same original plans after being bombed in the Second World War, also where Field Marshal Montgomery signed the German surrender in 1945. We were allowed shopping time before travelling to Winsen, where our final concert was held, in a red brick Lutherian building, with the warmest of welcomes from a very appreciative audience. Quoting Mrs Godfrey, ‘we saved the best for last.’ We were then taken to the hall next to the church and were treated to a really good supper made by the village community.
It was our last day in Hamburg, and we were allowed to shop in the morning, before going back to the hostel and collecting our bags and heading to the airport for the flight back to Luton.
The Choir sang five concerts over the week, which were all well attended by the public, all thanks to the brilliant work of the church organisers and wardens who advertised the concerts in the local towns. Huge thanks must go to all the teachers who travelled with the Choir, especially Mr Saunders for organising the trip, and of course Mr Crompton, who conducted the Choir, and made everyone feel welcome. It was also special for Mr Crompton because it was his last time conducting and touring with the RHS choir. The tour was a great success and we all wish Mr Saunders best of luck with taking on Director of Music next year. Also, best wishes to Mr Crompton, for a happy and Stoke City filled retirement!
Sally & Lucy Watson